NEW DELHI — Amid sliding prices of maize in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown, the Centre has notified norms for import of 5 lakh tonnes of maize under Tariff Rate Quota Scheme during the current financial year at a concessional customs duty of 15 per cent. At present, maize attracts 50 per cent import duty. The move may further dampen the hopes of maize farmers, who were expecting prices to rise with pickup in demand after un-lockdown.
Maize farmers in Bihar, who account for over 80 per cent of India’s 6-7 million tonnes (mt) of annual production of rabi maize, are facing difficulties in selling their produce as prices have gone down to Rs 1,100-1,250 per quintal, much lower than Rs 2,000-2,400 per quintal last year and the government’s minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,760 per quintal for 2019-20. The state is headed for Assembly elections in October-November. A notification issued by the Department of Revenue shows that the government has also notified norms for import of 10,000 tonnes of “milk and cream in powder, granules” for this year at a concessional duty of 15 per cent under Tariff Rate Quota scheme. The move comes at a time when cooperative dairies are saddled with skimmed milk powder stocks of about 1.25 lakh tonnes. With the lean season for milk almost ending and monsoon rains setting in, it may worsen the glut situation. Milk procurement prices, too, have come down due to collapse of demand during lockdown.
The latest decision is a reversal of the budget decision. In the Union Budget 2020-21, the government had withdrawn the concessional duty of 15 per cent applicable on imports of up to 10,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder during a fiscal under the Tariff Rate Quota Scheme.
Under the scheme, the government allows import of four products—maize (corn), “milk and cream in powder, granules”, crude sunflower seed or safflower oil and fractions thereof; and refined rape, colza or mustard oil and fractions thereof—at concessional rates of customs duty. The Centre has also allowed import of 1.5 lakh tonne each of refined rape, colza or mustard oil and crude sunflower seed or safflower oil at 45 per cent and 50 per cent duty, respectively.